Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas on the CBS Radio Mystery Theater

As previously noted, I loved listening to the radio when I was growing up, and one of my favorite programs was the CBS Radio Mystery Theater (CBSRMT), created by the legendary producer Himan Brown. The series consisted of some 1400 original radio plays and ran nightly from 1974 through 1982. Each episode was allotted a full hour of airtime, which, after subtracting news and commercials, amounted to approximately 46 minutes of dramatic content each night. Despite its title, the program's scope extended beyond the mystery genre to include historical drama, horror,science fiction and even comedy, on occasion. During its first eight seasons, CBSRMT was hosted by E.G. Marshall. Each episode opened with the sound of a creaking door followed by an ominous-sounding musical prologue and Marshall's trademark greeting.  In Boston, the series was carried by CBS affiliate WEEI-AM, and each nightly episode began immediately after the 11:00 news at around 11:07 pm. Due to the late hour, I was only permitted to listen on weekends, and during school vacation -- even then, I rarely managed to stay awake though all three acts of the broadcast. But it was fun to try, and I loved listening to each story unfold in the darkness as my imagination created the accompanying visuals.  What does any of this have to do with Christmas? Well, each year on Christmas Eve, CBSRMT broadcast an original adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, starring Marshall himself as Ebenezer Scrooge. It was several years before I managed to stay awake through the end of the broadcast, but I still think back fondly on it as one of the memorable holiday traditions of my youth. I haven't heard this version of A Christmas Carol in more than 30 years, but I'll be driving alone for a few hours tonight and I've got an .mp3 version of the broadcast loaded up and ready to play as I leave Los Angeles. I can't wait! And for the benefit of those who haven't heard it before, I've posted a link to my copy of the show, below. If I'd been smart, I would have posted this earlier, but better late than never, I suppose. Pleasant travels to all, and a very Merry Christmas!

Press HERE to listen to the CBSRMT version of A Christmas Carol, starring E.G. Marshall in his only appearance on the program that extended beyond his typical role as host.

Press HERE for a second Christmas-themed CBSRMT episode, A Holiday Visit (1980), starring Lloyd Battista and Diana Kirkwood. Don't miss the frigid weather forecast that opens the broadcast, which was recorded on December 25, 1980.

(NOTE: Depending on your browser, these tracks may take up to 20-30 seconds to load. Bah! Humbug!)


  1. I love the Xmas music on A Holiday Visit. If it was recorded 12-25-80 was it aired Xmas 1981? The music and sound effects for Mystery Theater were awesome and I think the showed peaked in quality and sound effects around 1979-1980.


    1. Thanks for your comment. According to at least one published source, "A Holiday Visit" was originally broadcast on December 25, 1980, and rebroadcast once on December 25, 1981. Gordon Payton and Martin Grams, Jr., The CBS Radio Mystery Theater: An Episode Guide and Handbook..Jefferson, NC, McFarland & Co., Inc., 1999. Over the years, I've probably listened to around half of the CBSRMT's 1,399 original episodes, and while I wouldn't disagree with your assessment about the high-water mark, I'd say each season had its share of fine episodes. Thanks again for writing!